My name is Sarah Johnson and I’m married to James Johnson. We got married in May 2015. So it’ll be seven years married this May. I’m a full-time mom now. I used to work in the city as a futures broker. This was for about 12 years. I actually got made redundant during COVID, which is obviously a bit of a bummer, but it was no bad thing because it made me focus more on the children and give them my all while they’re so young. And then hopefully, once they both go to school in the next couple of years, I can look at either getting back into the city or finding a job that works around the children and their school hours.
With Florence, I fell pregnant very easily. I had been trying for a couple of months and nothing happened. Then a friend of mine told me about ovulation sticks. So I gave it my all with those, religiously peeing on the sticks. I got the flashing face, went for it <laughs> and fell pregnant that month.
I had a really easy pregnancy with Florence. The birth, not so much! Obviously, being your first baby, it was always going to be a bit tough. I ended up being induced. 40 hours later, she came. It was a bit of a traumatic birth, because she was quite a big baby and she got stuck. She came out with something which is called a shoulder dystocia, which meant that they had to manipulate her arm to get her out, because she was stuck and they had to get her out quickly. Otherwise, she could have died if she had gotten trapped within the birth canal.
So when she came out, bless her, she had a dislocated arm. I had to have quite a few months of physiotherapy for her back and forth for about six months. And thankfully, after six months, her arm was totally back to normal and she is absolutely fine. Obviously, it was really traumatic at the time seeing her like that, with her little arm in a funny position, but luckily the NHS hospital was so amazing. They gave her lots and lots of physiotherapy and it really helped.
We didn’t plan on having a second as soon as we did. Basically, I fell pregnant just before Florence turned one. That was a bit of a shock having them so close together. But I wouldn’t change it for the world now. Obviously, it was really hard at the start, but now they’re like little best mates and having them really close is really good. They’ll literally be a school year apart. So Florence will go to school this September and then Johnny will follow the following year. So they are going to the same school and hopefully have the same mates, same little friendship group. So, for all the hard work, it’s all ended up paying off.
Johnny’s birth story was completely different. It was a really, really easy pregnancy. Obviously it was tiring because I had a one-year-old to look after as well and I was still working full time, so that was tough.
I was monitored and I was supposed to be potentially having a C-section because of Florence’s shoulder dystocia. The hospital said they were worried that he could be another big baby and they didn’t want the same thing to happen. So I met with a consultant and we talked about having a C-section and luckily I decided not to, because I ended up having a really amazing natural birth. I went to see a guy who is an amazing acupuncturist who a friend recommended. I had about four sessions two weeks before my due date. It was really amazing, I felt really relaxed, really chilled out. And a week before my due date, the contractions happened. They came really, really quickly.
I used to really laugh at people that used to say, “I just breathed my baby out. And it was just so natural that they came so beautifully into this world.” But it was amazing to have a birth with no drugs and actually experience every part of it. And I was so fortunate that he was delivered safe and sound. I was absolutely fine, no tearing or anything like that. I feel really blessed to have two healthy children.[Can I mention that Johnny was born in the back of the car please, Sarah?]
Oh my God!! Yeah!! I can’t believe I left that bit out. Yeah, of course. Yeah, born in the car, outside the hospital, in the taxi rank and James basically delivered him.
Yeah, really, really hard. Florence went to nursery and because of my hours – they were really quite long – I hardly saw her. I used to see her for an hour before I went to work and then probably an hour when I got home. So it was seriously, seriously tough. I missed her so much. I had a whole year off on maternity leave, so it was a massive shock leaving her and transitioning into nursery. She used to get really upset and that used to really play on my heartstrings.
I remember phoning James crying and saying, “what are we doing? This is so unfair. I should just be a stay at home mom.” I did really love my job, so part of me also wanted to get back. You do feel quite torn and trying to find that balance is tough. After a few months, once she settled into the nursery and she really loved the au pair that we had at the time, I felt much better about things and kind of got into the swing of the routine quite easily after that.
HOW HAS BEING A MUM CHANGED THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HUSBAND AND, IMPORTANTLY, THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF?
I would say if anything, it has probably made our relationship stronger, because we both have these two little humans who we’ve made and they’re just so important to us that we know we really make time as a family to be together and do amazing things. Holidays and at the weekends we’ll always do something nice with the children. But we also prioritize time for the two of us to have time for date nights, weekends away, things like that. I’m lucky to have quite a large family that lives close by who are always willing to have them, which is really amazing. So it gives both James and I time to do our own thing and have adult time, just the two of us, which is really, really nice.
The relationship with myself, I’d say it’s been really one of the most amazing experiences of my life. No one really gets it until you have your own. I remember people used to say, “oh wait ‘til you have your own children. There’s nothing like it.” And I used to think, “oh really?” But then, you have these children and it is literally the most amazing thing ever. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a lot of things change. You don’t have the time like you used to to do things that you want to. It is literally 24 hours, seven days a week, of ups and downs, but mainly the most amazing ups.
The bizarre thing was, with Florence it came like mother nature. Literally, she went straight to the boob after giving birth. The aftercare at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, where I had her, was amazing. They really did help me with a breastfeeding journey. And I fed her for six months, literally all the time. And then she used to have one bottle of formula at night to keep her tummy full and make her sleep longer.
But I had the most wonderful experience breastfeeding with her. It was the absolute dream. So obviously, when I had my son, Johnny, I thought, “wow, I’ll be able to breastfeed him, no problem.” I did for about a week. Absolutely fine. And then sadly got really bad mastitis to the point that I had to be hospitalized for a week when he was just two weeks old.
I had such a bad infection. And they were trying to find the right antibiotic to kill the infection. So I was in there for such a long time with him beside me. James was at home looking after Florence with my mom. My mom took some time off work to help. Bless her. It was so, so hard and just sadly didn’t work, which I felt really gutted about. Because when you have children, you wanna give them both exactly the same.
But unfortunately, it was one of those things and a fed baby is a happy baby. So I had to transition and feed him formula and he absolutely thrived from that.
Yeah, definitely, one hundred percent. When I had Florence, I joined a NCT group, which is in London. You have classes with other couples who are giving birth around the same time. And you have a specialist who tells you about labor and what to expect when you have a baby and stuff. And it was very much “breast is best, you should try and do it”. And also, afterwards in the hospital, the midwives are very much like, “come on”, “let’s try”, “you must try and feed your baby the boob, breast milk is the best!” There’s been so much research into it.
So you do absolutely feel, “I must do this. I must give my child the best.” But at the end of the day, if you are gonna be as sick as I was, you can’t do anything. I literally had to lift my head off the bed to still care for Johnny when I was in hospital with mastitis.
And it was just so miserable feeling that ill, no fun for anyone, and going straight to formula made me so much happier. I was healthy within myself and Johnny was happy. He was being fed and that’s the most important thing. I think a lot of women do beat themselves up when they can’t do it. And it’s really sad because, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to do our best for our children. If it just doesn’t work, it’s just one of those things.
Sometimes it just doesn’t come as easily as it should and it’s obviously not meant to be. I mean, I had two children, one I managed to do it, one I didn’t, and it was just one of those things. Both are happy and healthy.
I would just say: always go with your gut feeling when you know something’s not right, and that it isn’t working for you or your family. Go with what’s in your gut. You know what’s good for you and what’s right for your baby. And also, always reach out to someone. Hopefully you’ve got good friends, good family, and speak to them about it. Don’t hold it in. The best thing to do is to talk; get it off your chest. Everyone has ups and downs and it’s good now that in this day and age, people do talk about it. And there are more stories about people’s struggles in the media and things like that. It is really hard being a mom, especially being a first time mom: trying to feed them, sleepless nights. It is a big shock to the system, recovering from labor. I would just say take it easy on yourself. You’ve been given this wonderful gift. What our bodies have gone through is amazing and just try and enjoy it.
Don’t beat yourself up because it goes so quickly that first year. Everything will work out in the end.
I come from a big Irish background. So both my mom and dad are from Dublin and Ireland. My mom is one of 14. So obviously, having a big family, we believe family is everything. And my mom literally did everything for us. She was an amazing mom. Always there for us, you know, probably did a bit too much <laughs> but no, she was amazing. She was just a typical Irish mommy.
I hope I’ll be half as good a mum as she was because she was literally amazing. And I’m so close to her now. She’s my best friend and I really hope that my children will also have that relationship with me when they’re older.
My dad worked a lot when I was a kid. He was one of the main providers in the family. And my dad also played an amazing part in the way he parented me and how I grew up. He was always the fun dad. At the weekends he was always taking me to do stuff, whether it was the cinema, or out on my bike, things like that. They were both amazing parents. They still are. I mean, they’re unbelievable grandparents. They helped me so much. They’re just really great people and I feel very blessed to still have them in my life, in our lives, and helping me raise my two children because they are very hands-on grandparents.
I think it has definitely made me not selfish. And it has also made me look at my mom and respect my mom more because now I understand how hard it is and what they have done for you all your life, basically. So it’s made me more grateful to my family, especially my mom, for raising me the way she did and for making sacrifices for me. I feel really blessed that she did, because I was very lucky as a kid. I felt like she gave me everything I ever wanted. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do the same for my children.
What products could… SARAH JOHNSON not parent without?
When they were babies I had them both in the Baby Bjorn carrier and it was brilliant. Especially when Florence was a toddler, I used to have Johnny a lot of the time in that as well, which was amazing because then he was on me, which he liked. It kept him quiet and comfortable, and I could still run around after Florence because she was walking and moving around and getting up to mischief. I’d say that was definitely a game changer for me.
So because I have my two quite close together, I have the Yoyo pram and then I also have the Yoyo board seat that goes on the back. So I have Johnny in the front and Florence on the back, which is an absolute game changer if you are traveling or going anywhere. Florence is four and she’ll still be like, “I’m so tired. I’m so tired.” With the Yoyo pram I have them both sitting down. So they’re not moaning and it’s amazing, just whizzing around London. It’s so small. It folds up perfectly. So that’s a definite I can’t live without.